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India successfully tests hypersonic vehicle

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle at the ILA Berlin Air Show ILA 2012 (Bin im Garten/Wikimedia Commons)
September 09, 2020

On Monday, September 7, India’s premier defense lab Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) conducted its first technology demonstrator test of an indigenously designed scramjet engine which will enable the unlock the prospect for hypersonic cruise missile development for India.

DRDO conducted the test on Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Orissa state in the Bay of Bengal on Monday morning, Times of India reported. The vehicle, Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSDTV) developed by DRDO, propelled India to one of the few nations with the capability to design and fire hypersonic vehicles with the scramjet engine. Only the U.S., Russia, and China have that technology.

The test involved the flight of a hypersonic cruise vehicle at an altitude of 30km. The vehicle was installed on a booster phase of an Agni ballistic missile powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor that was fired in a vertical trajectory after the launch vehicle was auto ignited. The scramjet assisted vehicle ignited and flew to its predestinated trajectory and achieved the velocity of six matches with sustaining flight at the same velocity for 22-24 seconds. Scientists present at the test recorded the parameters and flight data of vehicles, and announced the successful completion of the test.

The test demonstrated the opening sequence of air intake as planned at an altitude of 30kms with fuel injection on the accurate timeframe and autoignition of the vehicle concluding the major phase of a working scramjet engine.

PM Narendra Modi and Defense Minister Rajnath both congratulated the DRDO and the nation on the successful tests. They also praised the “Atma Nirbhar” policy pitched by the Indian government to be self-reliant on developing and producing needed technology including in weapon sectors.

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DRDO now aims to develop a full-fledged hypersonic cruise missile in five to six years. India still has to achieve sustained scramjet-powered hypersonic flight for several minutes, which has been demonstrated by the U.S., Russia, and China.

Scramjet — supersonic combustion ramjet engine — is a variant of a ramjet airbreathing jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow. The technology allows the vehicle to propel at hypersonic velocity for its entire trajectory route making it more efficient, faster, and critical technology for future aeronautical applications in both military and civilians. Currently, the Ramjet engine is used in missile technology in leading nations’ arsenals, including India’s Brahmos works on the ramjet principle. Now India aspires to develop an evolved version of it to make their future weapons faster and more accurate to reduce the enemy’s reaction time to defend, allowing India to keep an edge over adversaries in conventional warfare.